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Public Lands Foundation Honors Alaska's Copper River Watershed Project

ANCHORAGE – The Public Lands Foundation (PLF) presented the Copper River Watershed Project with its 2011 Landscape Stewardship Award and a citation yesterday in recognition of their efforts in community-based landscape stewardship on federal public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Alaska. PLF Alaska representative Jules Tileston presented the award to the Watershed Project during a special ceremony yesterday at the BLM’s Alaska State Office.  BLM-Alaska State Director Bud Cribley, former BLM-Alaska State Director Curt McVee, and BLM-Alaska Glennallen Field Manager Beth Maclean were also in attendance.

With extraordinary vision and purpose, members of the Copper River Watershed Project worked with the BLM to help advance youth initiatives sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the BLM.  They provided both time and money to create a youth stewardship project that gives teens a 10-day outdoor experience exposing them to the history, wildlife, fisheries, cultural history and economies of the communities along the Copper River.  The students also learn about issues and solutions surrounding operation and oversight of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which passes through the watershed, and land and resource management issues that cross state, federal and Alaska Native corporation boundaries. This beneficial experience exposes youth to natural resource management careers and encourages them to consider becoming the next generation of land and resource managers.

To build public awareness of the need to care for the Copper River Watershed, project members created a stewardship program and Discovery Room pen-pal activities to connect students living up and down the river so they see themselves as citizens of a much larger watershed community. Members also collaborated with state, federal, Alaska Native villages and corporations, and other nonprofit organizations to develop wayside interpretive signs that will help visitors understand the ecosystem as they travel through the greater watershed and will hopefully lead to a greater sense of stewardship for the region's resources.

Thanks to the group's rerouting of the Fish Creek trail near Paxson, all-terrain vehicle riders can now travel mostly on land, crossing the stream only one time instead of seven times. They also constructed a salmon-viewing platform on the Gulkana River to reduce bank erosion caused by tourists crowding close to the river's edge to see fish.

The Copper River Watershed Project provided exceptional service to the BLM and partnering agencies by training and managing volunteers over a four-year period to collect water quality and human use data in the Copper River watershed streams, lakes and rivers.  The group also created an efficient and cost-effective culvert-ranking protocol and mapping tool that helps agencies and landowners prioritize culvert replacements that will provide the best benefit for fish passage and greater protection against soil erosion

Thanks to the leadership and networking skills of the Copper River Watershed Project, the BLM has strengthened traditional partnerships and developed new community partners, leading to more coordinated and effective management of the Copper River Watershed.

The Public Lands Foundation honors the efforts of citizens and organizations that work to advance and sustain community-based stewardship on landscapes that include public lands administered by BLM. According to Tileston, “The purpose of this program is to recognize and call public attention to individual and group efforts, to promote collaboration by a broad range of participants to achieve shared natural resource protection and enhancement goals, and to call attention to the many values and management needs of the Nation’s National System of Public Lands.”

The Public Lands Foundation is a national non-profit organization made up predominately of retired Bureau of Land Management employees, that advocates and works for the retention of the National System of Public Lands in public hands, professionally and sustainably managed for the responsible common use and enjoyment of the American people.

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